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Honey, Shut Your Mouth
Today was the day. I placed my hands upon the concrete borders and stared down into the busy street. The smell of gasoline and burning flesh still lingered in the air, mixing with that explicable highway-scent that flowered on these busy streets. Might have imagined it. Or perhaps the product of some charm, released with the intention of perhaps inspiring some sense of guilt or regret. It didn't work.
It was beautiful, I had to admit. The way the contours of the flame licked against metal, the preceding tell-tale screech of rubber on pavement as rapid hands struggled to regain control of a situation so hopelessly far from grasp. The kind of the thing they would expect to find on a day cursed to be gloomy and rainy, but instead found itself to be quite bright and sunny. It was all so vibrant, the deep blues and gnashing orange and red bordered with black. And then, like strange little snakes in suits, they creeped from their holes to observe the going-ons.
Crossing the walk was a man in a citrus orange Hawaiian shirt. He was an older fellow, whiskers dotted with gray. His summer hat and dark glasses shrouded his eyes, but the smirk at the corner of his mouth showed his true intentions. He sighed loudly, exhaustedly, as he sat down next to me.
"My, these bones be weary. " He smiled as he said it, looking at neither me nor the wreck on the street below. He only looked across the street, perhaps eyeing the shoppers who looked up, mildly perturbed by the sounds of tragedy unfolding.
"Yeah?" The sparks were beginning to spill over onto the neighboring lanes. A second, a third, a fourth victim, all arrived in due time. Not as severe as the others, but just as horrific. Sunlight filled the pores in their skin that weren't already taken up with blood and oil. It was interesting to consider how the auburn child could have been anywhere among them. Or perhaps not there at all. Or driving away, as he saw it unfold his rear-view mirror. But that was only false hope. He was incoming right on schedule. "You're not the only one. "
The old man's howl of a wolf laugh was harsh and dry and seemed to cut straight through my chest. "Surely not your young spry bones! I didn't know your type could even feel weariness."
I looked up at him, my own eyes lined not with age, but with stress and the darkness of sleepless nights. "What's so hard to believe about that?" I turned around again, this time fully facing the city surrounding us, tall and foreboding. I gestured broadly at the high-rises, and swept a hand across the horizon. It was a pale, vaguely oatmeal colored hand well calloused and bandaged along the wrists. It was to keep from hurting myself when I haphazardly leapt from the tops of skyscrapers; they didn't always work. "The people are weary. Especially these days. They are tired. It drains me. "
"Tired of what?" The old man inquired of me, still smirking. The act was devilish, and getting old quickly. Irritation began to bubble beneath my lean muscles. The trickle of cars was beginning to slow, as did the moving the clouds, the breeze in the wind. He wasn't far away now. He'd be here soon, and everything would fall into place, just as it was supposed to do. Just as it always did.
"Life, I guess. This is a business town. You and I both know that. Businessmen, lawyers, politicians; it's where they thrive. All very boring and uninteresting. The children, they have nothing to live for. Nothing happens. Even now, there's only disaster to see. I know what's going to happen. This tragic death will print in all the papers. Everyone will know, and there will be much weeping and crying. The gruesome pictures and gory details won't help, only serve to depress and forbade. Meanwhile, it will also catch the eyes of the none-too-savory. They will see this place, they will be inspired to take it for all it's worth. They will drain me, and belittle all my work to keep this concrete husk alive and well. I will be drained. "
"And then what?" He placed the tips of his fingers together, apparently deep in thought.
"And then... there's no hope for the city. And no hope for me."
He howled again, this time louder than before. This game of his was growing more bothersome by the moment. "Well! Is that how you really feel? When did you become so melodramatic, child?" He used a gnarled hand to wipe at the eyes behind those dark lenses. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you've gone sour! Even you, with your bright eyes and foresight, cannot proclaim that you know all ends of this city. Aren't you the one responsible for making this city what it will be?"
"Honey," I was enraged now, "kindly shut your mouth. What do you know? Have you ever felt the overwhelming wretching of the city as tragedy consumes it? Do you know the feeling of a thousand of roaring voices crying out, and then silence? The flame that which consumes and consumes and consumes until there is nothing left to burn? They've all been left to the black, and the ones left, the happy ones, they are all consumed and smothered away before they can even begin to light their fires. There's no hope for this city."
"What about the boy. "
"What?" He said it quite suddenly, and without abrasion from my scathing words. It surprised me, and halted my words. It wasn't a question. It was a statement. What about the boy? What worth was he? A meaningless individual, whose only purpose was to act as catalyst. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing that could be done to stop it.
He was beneath us now, approaching the wreck. From his vantage point, he could not see the flame welling beneath the twisted metal, yearning to burst. The combustion was building. In a few moments, he will approach the wreck, and devoured like the others. But he had to pass. He had to get through. He had to die. Because that was what was supposed to happen... Wasn't it?
"Have I ever told you about the time I met a Buddhist while I was still in the trade?" The old man drawled. Slender limbs began to pick a path through the parked cars and the gathered groups of drivers. He had abandoned his own car at the back of the pack, choosing to go forward by foot. "He used to talk to me about their beliefs in reincarnation. I remember he once told me that passing by fire meant coming back as a girl. Interesting, I suppose, but if they're all as whiny as you, I can't imagine why anyone would want to be one."
Biting my lip, I willed time to slow, but only for a moment. I saw the tongue extend and engorge from the wreck, aimed to kill. The scrap moved from it's path, allowing the unstoppable force to pass. I saw his head turn. I saw the stutter and the stop. To do anything now would dangerously disrupt the balance that would lead to this places demise.
"F*** it!" Placing my feet on the concrete rail, I hurled myself forward with every bit of strength I could draw from the surroundings. I bounded as I usually do, but this time faster than anything I'd ever attempted before. Windshields were shattered and car roofs torn and crushed underfoot. The air crackled as I split it in two. I climbed that mountainous hulk of metal and glass.
He was just ahead now, standing so quietly, entranced by the flickering light. That was the important part. The spark needed to alight the concrete and stone. The spark that would escape, unsmothered. As I swooped before him and scooped him back, he remained entranced. I mimicked the thrust of the conflagration and pushed him back, further and further away. I let time slip, and the sphere of danger grew closer, alarmingly close.
The moment I touched the soft folds of his cotton shirt, I could see history rewriting. The paths rebuilding, the branches re-growing. One person, whose single life, which was nearly lost, now changed everything. I could see the colours whirling away until gone. I saw the light of a world anew.
And for the briefest of moments, he saw me.
He would land on the pavement, with new wounds adorning his flesh where carelessness let danger creep too close for comfort. They would leave scars no doubt, but thee would be scars worth remembering. He would drift into unconscious as the ambulance carried him away. Days would pass and he would forget why he came to be there. He would forget what minuscule task so convinced him of wanting to brave the wreck. But he would always remember the image of the soul of the city, silhouetted in what was once a future of death. A blaze of glory.